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N.B. This report is a summary of the presentations given at the conference, and may not perfectly reflect their content. For the full content, please refer to the presenter's written speech or the video recording.

 

More than their roles as peacemakers, and reconcilers, women’s authority to lead a call to prevent war was the focus of the second session of a conference held at the United Nations offices.

Mr. Jacques Marion, Chair, UPF Europe & Middle East, FranceMr. Jacques Marion, Chair, UPF Europe & Middle East, FranceThe second session, “No Peace without Women”, began with an introduction from Mr. Jacques Marion, the regional chair of UPF for Europe and the Middle East, who served as the moderator.

“This session is part of a series of regional conferences held in Europe and around the world in response to the outbreaks of war, and calling for women to take the lead in peacebuilding”, Mr. Marion said. “We have a highly distinguished panel of UN officials and experts, with great field experience”.


 

 

 

Ms. Tatiana Molcean, Executive Secretary, UN Economic Commission for Europe (ECE)Ms. Tatiana Molcean, Executive Secretary, UN Economic Commission for Europe (ECE)Ms. Tatiana Molcean, the under-secretary-general and executive secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), was unable to be present. Her speech was presented by Ms. Hillary Murphy, the UNECE senior social affairs officer.

In her speech, Ms. Molcean said that the United Nations established UNECE in 1947 to support the economic reconstruction of Europe after the Second World War.

“Our mandate focuses on development rather than peace and security issues”, she said.

“Gender equality is a critical principle of our work. As executive secretary of UNECE, I am deeply committed to advancing gender equality for the region throughout all dimensions of our mandate. This includes, for example, economic empowerment of women and the mainstreaming of gender considerations and inclusion in technical standardization work in several domains, such as trade facilitation, energy, transport, and statistics”.

Ms. Molcean continued: “Among the trends in our region, I would like to highlight three areas of concern that we need to address.

“First, we need to step up our efforts to reach” the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 5: gender equality. She reported that “the UNECE region is on track to achieve just one of the nine targets of Goal 5. … Political will and extensive capacity-building are needed to improve the situation and to enable a more systemic monitoring of gender equality, including those aspects affected by conflict. …

“Secondly, we need to counter a growing movement opposing gender equality and human rights principles. … Opposition to gender equality legislation, rejection of established international instruments and a decreasing civic space have all become worrisome realities in recent years. The pushback is a direct obstacle to continued progress on SDG 5 and threatens to reverse progress. … In this context, UNECE will continue to advocate for inclusion and gender equality as paramount considerations. …

“Finally, we need to remedy the disproportionate impact of war on women. The analysis by UN Women in Ukraine, for example, has shown that the war has exacerbated pre-existing inequalities as well as gender-based violence, conflict-related sexual violence, and trafficking. As relates to the economic situation of women, the reliance of women on unprotected informal sectors of employment has increased as a result of conflict. Similarly, conflict-related displacement affects economic equality for women through direct income earning setbacks”.

Ms. Molcean mentioned that UNECE and UN Women will jointly organize an event in Geneva on 21 and 22 October 2024, the Beijing Plus 30 Regional Review Meeting. The event anticipates the 30th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, which in 1995 established a set of principles for the equality of men and women.


Ms. Adriana Quinones, Head, Human Rights and Development, UN WomenMs. Adriana Quinones, Head, Human Rights and Development, UN WomenThe second speaker, Ms. Adriana Quiñones, the Acting Director of UN Women in Geneva, and Head of Human Rights and Development for the United Nations entity known as UN Women, stated, “The current international situation is terrifying and worrying – armed conflicts are escalating around the world, disproportionately affecting women and girls”.

Mentioning in particular Yemen, Gaza and Ukraine, Ms. Quiñones said that civilian deaths are just one of the dire consequences of the ongoing conflicts. There are also internal displacement, poverty, food insecurity, as well as “sexual gender-based violence – which continues to be a weapon of war”.

Women have borne the brunt of conflict and violence, yet their voices have often been marginalized in peace processes and decision-making forums”, Ms. Quiñones said.

“When women are included in peacebuilding efforts, the outcomes are more comprehensive, enduring, and inclusive. Women bring new perspectives, experiences, and skills to the table. They are agents of change, catalysts for reconciliation, and champions of social cohesion”.

As examples of the work of UN Women, Ms. Quiñones mentioned training and mentoring prosecutors in Guatemala in order to stop wartime sexual violence, and supporting the involvement of women’s organizations in Colombian peace talks between the government and rebels.

Click here for the full speech of Ms. Adriana Quiñones.


Dr. Svjetlana Jovic, Team Leader, Civil Affairs Sector West, UNIFIL, LebanonDr. Svjetlana Jovic, Team Leader, Civil Affairs Sector West, UNIFIL, LebanonSpeaking by video, Dr. Svjetlana Jovic, a conflict prevention expert with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), reminded the audience that although the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace, and Security  24 years ago, “Women’s voice and influence remain unheard, overlooked and disregarded” in peace processes.

In South Lebanon starting in 2018, Dr. Jovic reported, more than two dozen women were trained in mediation and conflict prevention. In the process, their husbands, fathers, mayors, local officials and religious leaders had to be convinced of “the benefits of having their women being trained in mediation and negotiations”.

During the current crisis, these same women have become even more active, especially in helping displaced families.

“Here our women are well trained and so active, so useful to the society. They were out there actively engaged in conflict resolution. They're using their skills in resolving local disputes, disputes with the host community, disputes with humanitarian actors who are bringing assistance. They're diffusing intercommunal tensions, too”.

Dr. Jovic concluded by saying, “In my experience, any effort in planting a seed of peace is worth taking. Any effort in empowering women to gain skills to participate in a dialogue, in decision making, is a step forward in increasing the number of us working for peace”.

Click here for the full speech of Dr. Svjetlana Jovic.


Ms. Carolyn Handschin, President NGO-Committee on the Status of Women, Geneva Ms. Carolyn Handschin, President NGO-Committee on the Status of Women, GenevaMs. Carolyn Handschin-Moser, the president of the NGO Committee on the Status of Women at the United Nations in Geneva, vice president of Women’s Federation for World Peace International, and director of the WFWPI Office for United Nations Relations globally, was the next speaker.

“The goal of this meeting is mobilization to end wars, to solve disagreements and misunderstandings through dialogue, listening and committing to move forward together – not just to talk about it”, Mrs. Handschin-Moser said.

“Why do we believe in ‘No Peace without Women’?” she asked. Although women traditionally have not been on the front line in wars, they have been “involved fully to make up for the destructive effects of war”. She spoke of women “running businesses, holding communities and households together, working in factories or farms, caring for the injured and infirm, raising children and protecting them from daily tragic news, unable to stop or slow down in the face of grief, fatigue or hopelessness”.

In the aftermath of wars, women have been instrumental in rebuilding their societies. She gave the example of “the women of Dresden [Germany] rebuilding their devastated city with their bare hands during World War II”.

She pointed out that women often have unique skills and power when they negotiate or sit down at the table to end conflicts. War is more intimate for them.

“The role that women play to keep peace in their families and communities is known. … The same qualities, skills and experience are needed” in preventing and ending conflicts on a larger scale.

Although the Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security seemed to open doors for women to move from being victims to agents for peace, “We still need to walk through those doors”.

Mrs. Handschin-Moser listed six critical stages in conflicts:

  • Pre-conflict disruptions
  • Outbreak of violence
  • Full-scale war / civil disorder
  • End of conflict by agreement decided by a few, and usually not the right few
  • Reconciliation (often disregarded) and reconstruction plans
  • Monitoring implementation.

For conflict resolution the most important of these six stages is pre-conflict – “averting war in the first place”. This is the core of the “No Peace without Women” strategy, she said.

However, “Women must be let in at each stage,” including reconciliation (in which “unhealed wounds will resurface”) and in forming a “thoughtful and just reconstruction plan” in order to prevent future conflicts with those who actually care about the details.

“[Both] belligerent global leaders and saintly icons began forming their world views at a very early age”, Mrs. Handschin-Moser said. Children are influenced by their mothers, and even the world leaders who start wars can be influenced by their wives. She asked, “Can we not be better influencers?”

Click here for the full speech of Ms. Carolyn Handschin-Moser.


Ms. An Monita, vice president of the Cambodian chapter of International Association of Youth and Students for PeaceMs. An Monita, vice president of the Cambodian chapter of International Association of Youth and Students for PeaceMs. An Monita, vice president of the Cambodian chapter of International Association of Youth and Students for Peace, said that IAYSP was founded by Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon, the co-founder of UPF and WFWP,  to inspire young women and men to work together for a world of true peace.

Ms. Monita emphasized three points:

  • “The absence of women from peace talks weakens their sustainability. Including women isn't just about equality; it brings valuable perspectives and strategies.”
  • “The UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security marked a crucial step toward recognizing women's role”.
  • “Peace begins not just with global leaders but within the hearts of families. Imagine peace … as a seed planted within the heart of every family … nurtured by the unwavering love and compassion of a mother. … When we invest in mothers, we cultivate a generation of peacemakers, one nurturing family at a time”.

She gave examples of women in her homeland taking greater leadership roles. “From community leaders to activists, Cambodian women have taken on critical roles, fostering economic development, community healing, and advocating for justice”.

Ms. Monita emphasized the potential of young women in particular: “Young women possess unique perspectives, experiences, and the potential to drive positive change. Their voices are vital for inclusive policies, social cohesion, and addressing the root causes of conflict”.

Click here for the full speech of Ms. An Monita.


Question-and-answer session

Following are excerpts from some of the audience members’ questions and comments:

Ms. Christine Eisenberg, president of the French organization Cap Diverses Cités,  said: “The participation of women in peacekeeping operations demonstrates that their actions are always effective. They enhance missions by promoting human rights and protecting civilians. As bearers of life, women are motivated by a deep-rooted survival instinct, as they are devoted to their children. Despite the constant challenges and threats women face, they demonstrate admirable perseverance and endless imagination in anticipating and avoiding risks in dangerous situations.

“We can see that women act naturally and peacefully in favor of peace through their resilience, which is essential for building a safer and more harmonious world. Given these positive findings on women's involvement in peacebuilding, it is clearer than ever that there will be no peace without women.”

Mr. Reza Jafari, the president of Afghanistan Peace Dialogue, said: “I'm very surprised and a little shocked because the second session was about … ‘No Peace without Women’. But unfortunately, I didn't hear anything about Afghan women, even though today 16 million Afghan women are in an open-air prison called Afghanistan, run by a completely totalitarian regime, and have no rights whatsoever. …

“[M]any Afghan women are working on the recognition of gender apartheid in Afghanistan. Are you in contact with these women? If so, are you going to help them or recognize gender apartheid in Afghanistan, because this is a very important issue for women. Sixteen million Afghan women today have no rights. I repeat, women are not half of society. Women are society”.

Mr. Ceruti Nsoni, the founder of the Nsoni Foundation, a philanthropic organization in the Democratic Republic of Congo, said: “According to a report by American experts published in 2011, nearly 48 women are raped every hour in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which works out at more than 1,000 women raped every day. And these women are raped and left to their own devices, with no justice for them. And, to this day, we continue to be convinced that the only palliative to the Congolese government's weakness, indeed its incompetence, in bringing justice to these women is the creation of an international criminal court. …

“[W]hy, in fact, is the creation of this international criminal tribunal dragging on until now, because until now we haven't seen any trials to try to mend the hearts of these women, who are still wounded and traumatized … ?”

In closing the session, Mr. Jacques Marion thanked all the participants and said, “‘No Peace without Women’ is not a slogan – it’s a call to action!”

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